One last flip for Steamboat’s Gibbs
April 15, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Gymnastics dates back further in Cole Gibbs' life than nearly anything else, including his memory.
He was just 18 months old when his parents enrolled him in his first toddlers gymnastics class. Now 18 years old, he's competed straight through all those years, pressing on when more athletes joined him, then on, still, when those fellow gymnasts eventually quit.
That kind of devotion to a sport isn't particularly rare in an Olympic-obsessed town such as Steamboat Springs. That kind of devotion to gymnastics, however, is.
"It's surprising, because no one else from Steamboat has really stuck with it," Gibbs said. "It's surprising, because I've been able to stay motivated, even though I'm usually training by myself."
It could all come to a head next month, when Gibbs travels to Michigan for what may be the final competition of his career.
Last month, Gibbs finished ninth in the all-around at a USA Gymnastics qualifier in Colorado Springs, earning him the chance to compete May 4 through 8 at the national championships in Battle Creek, Michigan.
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The trip to nationals will not only be a first for Gibbs, but also the first for any Steamboat athlete.
"It's a great way to end the season and my high school career," he said.
It could be the pinnacle of his long career. Gibbs, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, plans to attend University of Michigan in the fall, attracted to the school by it's aerospace engineering program.
The Wolverines do have a gymnastics team, but Gibbs is still undecided if he'll try to walk on with the program.
The sport currently consumes a great deal of his time. In addition to practicing there, he works at at Excel Gymnastics in Steamboat, coaching younger athletes and supervising the facility on weekends.
The thought of life without the sport is daunting.
"It will definitely be strange to not have this time," he said, taking a break during practice. "I'll definitely have more free time. It will be weird for awhile."
He labeled making it to nationals a fitting conclusion, if, indeed, that's what it is.
He'll compete against 100 other athletes in a preliminary round. The top 24 in the overall will advance to the finals, while other athletes will be able to move ahead in individual events.
Gibbs's best chance to make a mark is in those events, especially vault and floor.
He always stood out in those two, but a training accident in December left him with two sprained ankles. He competed well in his other events at regionals, however, and was able to qualify, placing seventh in rings and eighth in both parallel bars and high bar.
He hopes the extra month of recovery will allow him to get back to the top of his game in floor and vault.
In the vault, that would mean hitting the Tsukahara full twist, a round-off onto the vault, then, a full flip and a full twist. Before his injury, he was hoping to lock down a double full.
He has a list of big moves he'd like to land on the floor routine, as well.
"It's been a remarkable career," said Mike Smith, Gibbs's father and coach. "I'd be excited if any of my athletes got to nationals. That it's my own son, too, it's extra special."
Trio of young athletes show well
Gibbs wasn't the only Steamboat standout at the regional meet. A trio of other boys competed, as well.
Max David, Asher Komor and Kade Lawton all advanced from the state meet, which took place in Steamboat, to compete in Colorado Springs, and there, they recorded their best scores of the season.
David led the way with a 20th-place finish in the all around.
"You always want your athletes to peak at the right time. These three went out there and did just that," Smith said. "I'm so proud of how they performed."
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